SHRM Foundation Scholarship Winners Reflect on Diversity & Inclusion




As part of their mission, the SHRM Foundation distributes more than $500,000 in certification, academic and professional development scholarships, awards and grants to HR professionals and students in a year. One of the exciting conference scholarships is the SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition Scholarship. This scholarship is granted to three winners by a review committee who select individuals most likely to leverage the tools and resources offered by attending the yearly conference and who, without SHRM Foundation support, would be unable to participate in the event.

This year, we interviewed two scholarship winners after attending #SHRMDiv to ask about the impact attending this event had on their professional development. Here’s what they had to say:

SHRM Foundation:  After attending this event, what will you do to transform your workplace into an inclusive environment?

Ronda Wakefield: One of the constant messages I heard was that diversity is undeniable as we are all unique. It’s the inclusion piece that we really need to work on.  I think organizations tend to get hung up on focusing on trying to be diverse and lose sight of the inclusion piece.  Moving forward I will help clients see the diversity they already have, work with them on broadening that piece, and putting equal effort into inclusion.

April Borrero:  As a Human Resource Analyst in my state’s Department of Health, clients come seeking services which are not only hurting physically but also emotionally. There are times when staff may not appear to sympathize, but more so judge without enough sympathy. My heart has been charged to provide awareness, not just to train, but to transform training into learning.   

SHRM Foundation: How did the learning's from this conference empower you to reach your fullest potential?

April: I received so much motivation that my first initiative was to come back and begin conversations with management about doing a better job with inclusion. I am empowered to bring more awareness both personally and professionally.

Ronda: My greatest passion is helping veterans, so I took every opportunity to participate in all sessions on the veteran hiring initiative.  I am actively taking steps to complete the Veterans at Work Certificate program that’s unfolding, so I started reading the new SHRM Foundation guidebook, The Recruitment, Hiring, Retention & Engagement of Military Veterans. All of this insightful knowledge gives me the confidence to discuss the importance of hiring but also retaining veterans with employers and fellow HR professionals.  

SHRM Foundation: What was your biggest takeaway?

Ronda: Aside from the veteran presentations, tools, and resources, the biggest takeaway was how pivotal the HR role is in influencing key decision makers in overcoming bias in the workplace – both intentional and unintentional.  If we become educated as subject matter experts, we can effectively implement D & I programs at our organizations and minimize the impact of discrimination and bias. 

April: As a wife of a deceased veteran, I too found tremendous value in the dedication SHRM Foundation is showing to recruiting and hiring Veterans, and I am excited about the new certificate program. A close second was the #MeToo and Time’s Up Cultural Shift presentation. It’s time that we all take accountability and hold others accountable for their actions. HR should be a safe place for someone to report their concerns and feel that they are being heard and resolution is fair and just.

SHRM Foundation: Thank you for sharing! Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us as one of our 2018 winners?

Ronda: I am forever grateful to the SHRM Foundation for giving me this opportunity.  I was exposed to a much broader definition of D & I, one that I wouldn’t have gained through my own research and reading.  Seeing and hearing first hand was an incredibly real experience that changed my perspective on the entire topic.  I would encourage every HR Professional to attend this conference. 

April: From the bottom of my heart, I am most thankful for being selected to be able to share in this experience. My experience has allowed me to learn and grow while meeting such wonderful people who I can now call friends. My struggle has been difficult, but you’ve provided happiness from within that I haven’t felt in a long time. It’s with tears in my eyes that I say THANK YOU!!!

The SHRM Foundation’s activities at the #SHRMDiv conference were made possible thanks to the generous support received from Comcast NBCUniversal and Randstad. During the concurrent session hosted by the SHRM Foundation, Carol Eggert, senior vice president of veterans and military affairs with Comcast NBCUniversal officially announced their sponsorship of the new Veterans at Work Certificate. The next day, Audra Jenkins, chief diversity & inclusion officer at Randstad North America, participated in the Diversity Leaders Exchange discussing emerging technologies and referencing a new white paper from Randstad: Technology’s Impact on Women in the Workplace.

To learn how you can apply for a 2019 scholarship with the SHRM Foundation, please visit



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